The Missouri softball team entered Sunday’s game against Texas A&M in first place in the Big 12 Conference.
The Tigers didn’t play like a first place team.
Missouri (33-19, 9-2) committed five errors, along with numerous other mental mistakes in a 7-0 shutout loss to the Aggies at University Field.
In the top of the fourth inning, when Texas A&M (37-7, 10-4) scored five runs, runners were on second and third with one out when a grounder
was hit sharply to shortstop Alli Kennewell. Kennewell did what she was supposed to do, trying to freeze the runner at third. However, she also froze herself. She paid too much attention to the runner coming from second, causing her to throw too late to home to catch the runner coming from third.
“I think that play was kind of indicative of our day,” Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine said. “Physical mistakes are going to happen, but we just made too many mental defensive mistakes.”
Jen Bruck, who pitched a complete game in Saturday’s 5-0 victory over the Aggies, pitched again for the Tigers Sunday, but gave up seven runs, four of them earned, in just four innings. Bruck also made a couple of defensive mistakes in the field.
Twice when fielding bunts, Bruck made errant throws to the second base side of first, including one in the fourth inning.
For some pitchers, the throw to first base can be difficult, because it’s made overhand, unlike the normal underhanded pitching motion. However, Earleywine said that’s not the case with Bruck.
“For some pitchers it’s a real difficult transition. For Jen it’s not because she’s a position player. She played shortstop in high school. But she’s had some issues mentally when it comes to balls back to the mound and that throw to first base,” Earleywine said. “There’s been kind of a past since high school that’s haunted her with that play. It’s 100 percent a mental situation with her making throws to first base. Sometimes she does, and sometimes she throws it into right field.”
Added Bruck: “I’ve had it since senior year in high school. It’s just a mental block.”
And as if the Tigers’ defensive woes weren’t enough, their offense struggled against Texas A&M pitcher Amanda Scarborough, getting just two hits. Scarborough, a hard thrower, had faced just one batter over the minimum until the seventh inning.
“The real advantage is the fact that she throws 70 plus miles per hour. You’re talking about the equivalency of a 100-mile per hour fastball in baseball,” Earleywine said.
With the loss, the Tigers fell one game behind Baylor (41-11, 9-2) for the conference lead.
NOTE: Missouri second baseman Sarah Stringer missed Sunday’s game after being spiked in her right Achilles tendon in Saturday’s game. According to Earleywine, Stringer will undergo a MRI to see if there is any structural damage to the ligament, and if there isn’t, Stringer might be available for Wednesday’s doubleheader against Iowa State.